Eight years ago, the Philadelphia Phillies acquired a young, potential-filled right-hander named JC Ramirez in a trade for Cliff Lee, an ace starter they had acquired four months before in failed pursuit of playoff glory.
Four years later, Ramirez reached the big leagues in a Phillies uniform, but only for 18 games, and he was no good in them. They let him sign elsewhere as a free agent that winter, and so began his whirlwind tour of teams: on to Cleveland, Arizona, Seattle, Cincinnati and, last year, the Angels.
In 2017, he is putting together the best season of his career. And never has he been better than against his old team Wednesday at Angel Stadium: He fired eight shutout innings in the Angels’ 7-0 thrashing of the Phillies.
“I made myself proud,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez had never lasted until the eighth inning in 20 previous starts, all as an Angel this season. The Phillies had given up on his starting potential in 2011; none of his new teams considered it, until the Angels last September. His future may still lie in the bullpen. But in a season mired by injuries, Ramirez’s relative stability has been essential to the Angels’ remaining playoff results.
“JC just keeps going,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He just keeps doing it. He’s gonna make his pitching and live with the results.”
He walked the first man he faced Wednesday, Angels target Cesar Hernandez, and allowed him to steal second. But he pitched out of that and three singles he surrendered over the next two innings. He did not let a man on base in the fourth or fifth innings.
Come the sixth, when he has routinely tired this season, Ramirez gave up two singles. With two outs, he induced a popup to escape.
Wielding worsening command come the eighth, he issued his second and final walk. Another Hernandez single followed, this time with one out. Pitching coach Charles Nagy visited the mound and reminded Ramirez of a central tenet to his style. “Just smile and throw the ball,” Nagy told him.
“That’s what I did,” Ramirez said.
After two flyouts, he was done, his 10th win secured, his 2017 earned-run average down to 4.03.
All of the Angels’ offense came within a 20-minute, third-inning burst. Catcher Martin Maldonado doubled to begin the inning and soon scored on a Philadelphia error. Mike Trout then deposited a ball into the trees behind the center-field wall for a two-run home run.
The Angels did not relent. Albert Pujols singled, took second on a Luis Valbuena groundout, and scored on an Andrelton Simmons single.
Pujols slowed while rounding third until coach Ron Roenicke gave a surprising sign to try for home. He evaded the errant throw.
C.J. Cron next pounced on a hanging slider, crushing it about 443 feet for a two-run homer. That made it 6-0. Kaleb Cowart’s subsequent shot made it 7-0, and gave the Angels their first three-homer inning of the season.
Maldonado nearly made it four, but his drive bounced off of the wall for a double. He became the first man in the majors this season to double twice in an inning.
The Angels (53-55) are only three games behind Kansas City for a wild-card spot.
They are also winners of 11 straight games against the Phillies, tying the longest-ever interleague win streak for any team against any opponent.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura